On Monday, the space agencies of India and France signed a letter of intent stating that the two will collaborate on India’s next mission to Mars, SpaceNews reported.
This mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2020 and would involve sending a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet, will mark India’s second mission to Mars in history.
While the 2020 orbiter will not set a lander on Mars’ surface, the president of French space agency National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) Jean-Yves Le Gall said a lander mission might not be far off for India.
“After India’s Mars orbiter, the next step has to be a lander. A lander on Mars is not easy, but it will be interesting to undertake,” Le Gall told NDTV.
When Le Gall says that sending a lander to Mars “is not easy,” he’s not kidding.
In the history of deep space exploration, only three space agencies have attempted a Mars lander: the Soviet Space Program, NASA, and the European Space Agency (ESA).
Of those three, NASA is the only agency who’s had landers that functioned for longer than 15 seconds after touchdown. In fact, NASA’s latest lander, the Curiosity rover, just celebrated 12 years of exploration on the surface.
Needless to say, sending a lander to Mars is a major undertaking. But with a partner like CNES, India might just pull it off.
Founded in 1961, CNES has helped design and build the technology for such groundbreaking missions as ESA’s Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and its Philae lander as well as the Cassini-Huygens mission, which included an atmospheric probe — Huygens — that landed on Saturn’s moon, Titan.
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